Research shows that high quality early childhood programs prepare children for future success in school, work and life. From birth through age 5 is the most important time for growth of the human brain. A child’s brain develops in response to the child’s experiences by building neurological networks in reaction to the environment.
A child’s experiences in a child care program can significantly contribute to that brain development and the future success of the child. High quality child care programs are essential, not only to Hoosier children, but also to their families and to the communities in which they live. Parents need stable, high quality care in order to be productive at work. They count on their child care provider to ensure that their child is safe, healthy and learning during those hours they must be at work. Our school systems need children who are entering school prepared and ready to succeed. Businesses need a high quality work force both now and in the future. In fact, studies have shown that high quality early childhood programs increase the graduation rate, reduce the future crime rate and can save up to sixteen dollars for every one dollar invested. High quality child care programs are essential to everyone.
In order to improve the quality of child care programs, states across the nation are using Quality Rating and Improvement Systems, such as the one here in Indiana, Paths to QUALITY™. Quality Rating and Improvement Systems assess the quality of care within a program, work to improve that quality level, and give families an easy to recognize symbol that makes the difficult decision of choosing child care easier. These systems also provide an accountability measure for funding and create an alignment between licensing, subsidy and quality across child care, Head Start and the Department of Education’s early learning guidelines.
Paths to QUALITY™ gives families an easy to recognize tool for selecting a child care program. Families can look for the Paths to QUALITY™ logo to determine what level their provider has achieved. Each level builds on the foundation of the previous one, resulting in significant quality improvements at each stage and in national accreditation at the highest level. The system validates child care programs for ongoing efforts to achieve higher standards of quality and provides incentives and awards for success. The four levels address:
- Level One: Health and safety needs of children met
- Level Two: Environment supports children’s learning
- Level Three: Planned curriculum guides child development and school readiness
- Level Four: National accreditation (the highest indicator of quality) is achieved
For more information on Paths to QUALITY™, please visit http://www.childcareindiana.org.
We asked family child care professionals what types of things they thought were most important to include in their contract and put together this tip sheet:
Clearly defining your policies and following through on them is helpful for parents, for you as a professional, and also for maintaining the standards needed for licensing and high quality care.
Take some time to review and revise your program’s contract today!
The Illinois Early Learning Project provides resources for early childhood professionals related to the Illinois Early Learning Standards. The Illinois Early Learning (IEL) website offers video clips that can be used as a resource for parents and professionals around a variety of topics related to IEL Standards benchmarks, IEL Guidelines for 0-3, and parenting. Video content is available in English and Spanish and include transcripts and descriptions.
This handbook from the Administration for Children and Families outlines health and safety guidelines for providers and would be a great resource for someone opening a family child care home. Caring for our Children Basics represents the minimum health and safety standards experts believe should be in place where children are cared for outside of their homes.
Standards on the following topics are included:
- Programs Activities for Healthy Development
- Health Promotion and Protection
- Nutrition and Food Service
- Facilities, Supplies, Equipment, and Environmental Health
- Play Areas/Playgrounds and Transportation
- Infectious Disease